Europe

AK47 assault rifle designer Kalashnikov dies at 94

  • 23 December 2013
  • From the section Europe

The inventor of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, has died aged 94, Russian officials say.

The automatic rifle he designed became one of the world's most familiar and widely used weapons.

Its comparative simplicity made it cheap to manufacture, as well as reliable and easy to maintain.

Although honoured by the state, Kalashnikov made little money from his gun. He once said he would have been better off designing a lawn mower.

Kalashnikov was admitted to hospital with internal bleeding in November.

He died on Monday in Izhevsk, the city where he lived 600 miles east of Moscow, an official there said.

Matching the Germans

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was born on 10 November 1919 in western Siberia, one of 18 children.

In 1938, he was called up by the Red Army and his design skills were used to improve the effectiveness of weapons and equipment used by Soviet tank regiments.

He designed the machine gun after being asked by a fellow soldier why the Russians could not come up with a gun that would match the ones used by the Germans.

Work on the AK47 was completed in 1947, and two years later the gun was adopted by the Soviet army.

Kalashnikov continued working into his late 80s as chief designer at the Izhevsk firm that first built the AK-47.

He received many state honours, including the Order of Lenin and the Hero of Socialist Labour.

Kalashnikov refused to accept responsibility for the many people killed by his weapon, blaming the policies of other countries that acquired it.

However, pride in his invention was tempered with sadness at its use by criminals and child soldiers.

"It is painful for me to see when criminal elements of all kinds fire from my weapon," Kalashnikov said in 2008.

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